The individual has become more conscious than ever of his dependence upon society. But he does not experience this dependence as a positive asset, as an organic tie, as a protective force, but rather as a threat to his natural rights, or even to his economic existence. Moreover, his position in society is such that the egotistical drives of his make-up are constantly being accentuated, while his social drives, which are by nature weaker, progressively deteriorate. All human beings, whatever their position in society, are suffering from this process of deterioration.
I have often thought this myself. But I think it is only partially true. In fact, I think it is mostly institutionally
true. In everyday life people long for community and often attempt to foster it. Perhaps what Einstein is getting at is this: that modern institutions
(educational, political, economic, etc.) demand a confrontation bewteen the institution and the isolated individual. Thus individuals, in public life
, are often only able to connect via the mediation of massively anonymous bureaucratic institutions--through that mediation alone can individuals find any public commonality. Privately, individuals are free to meet and connect with whomever they please; and these relationships are what make life meaningful. But the public level is purely formal and anonymous and, in fact, discourages the face to face "human" relations that we delegate to private life. Thus, on the one hand, we have a very robust capacity and longing to connect and foster relationships on the private level; but, on the other, a very cold and anonymous public sphere that fragments human connections.
This, I believe, leads to apathy. Individuals feel confronted
by a massive system that seems to exist all on its own, to which they really can play no influential part. It--governments, educational systems, economic order, etc.--seems to run on its own and for its own sake without regard to community and the fostering of social relationships and culture. Institution after institution takes this bureaucratic model that operates off of sheer efficiency and calculation, typically without regard to quality or local needs, at the expense of meaningful human relationships. Indeed this model increasingly becomes the method of modern social organization in general.
Capitalism is a big part of this, no doubt, but I cannot agree that it has everything to do with it (the USSR, for instance, was not a capitalist state, and yet it had a massively oppressive bureucratic order). Rather, as Weber concluded, the development of bureaucracy helped make capitalism what it is today--and vice versa. The development of the modern situation is multi-faceted--and socialists need to recognise this. Socialism cannot be just a political endeavor that seeks to overcome capitalism, and so to continually define itself off of what it is against--particularly in defining itself as the economic
counterpart to capitalism as Einstein seems to have done in this essay.
P.S. I wouldn't worry about copyright with the Monthly Review...as long as you we have supplied the link to where this comes from, I think it's fine. After all, Monthly Review would probably be happy that we are discussing one of their articles.
Truth lives, in fact, for the most part on a credit system. Our thoughts and beliefs 'pass,' so long as nothing challenges them, just as banknotes pass so long as nobody refuses them.